VILSECK, Germany — Their opponents came in cold-weather parkas. The Patch Panthers arrived with a running game.
Patch found enough traction during the first half of a cold, snow-dusted game Saturday to push past the Vilseck Falcons, 30-8, and into the DODDS-Europe Division I football championship game. They’ll play undefeated Ramstein next Saturday in Baumholder.
The game fell on the winter’s first day of snow, and weather was a likely suspect for sloppy play that included fumbles, bobbles and broken plays. Vilseck, whose players stood in large parkas on the sideline during the first half, suffered the most. A bobbled snap during an early punt attempt deep in Vilseck territory turned into the first Patch touchdown after Panthers players swarmed the kicker and recovered the ball in the end zone.
“Weather was a factor for us, that’s for sure,” Vilseck coach Jim Hall said. Hall counted seven fumbles by his team, five of them lost.
The Panthers ground out two more touchdowns in the first half, relying on senior running back Curtis Hobson on the outside and seniors Joe Logan and Andrew Mineni through the middle. Mineni ended with two touchdowns, Hobson one.
Senior Jack Smith claimed Patch’s first touchdown, recovering the ball after the blocked punt.
“We’re ground-and-pound, and the weather really helped us,” Patch coach Brian Hill said.
Vilseck arrived with the more vaunted running game, relying on power running backs Carlton Campbell and Shawn Peebles, both seniors. Peebles, however, was limited on Saturday due to a stretched ligament during last week’s game against Heidelberg, Hall said.
Campbell saw the most use on Saturday. He finished with 148 yards and Vilseck’s only touchdown, a 73-yard run in the third quarter.
Vilseck senior Blade Strauss had a strong game, with a kickoff return of 81 yards to begin the third quarter. Yet Vilseck failed to take advantage, fumbling to Patch soon after.
Hobson led Patch rushers with 141 yards, followed by Mineni with 75 yards. Logan led all tacklers with nine, followed by senior Walter Guyer, with seven. Sophomore John Bohnemann and senior Victor Hernandez led Vilseck tacklers with 12 each.
Patch lost its first game against Vilseck earlier in October. It also lost in its first meeting with Ramstein, 27-0, in September. Hill, the Patch coach, said the Royals are daunting.
“They’re big,” Hill said of Ramstein. “They throw the ball well, they run the ball well. We’re going to have to play well.”